Respecting elected representatives and staff – Opinion

March 9, 2024 BY

City of Greater Bendigo CEO Andrew Cooney. Photo: FILE



It is time to call out the disrespectful, inappropriate and cowardly commentary that has recently been directed towards our councillors, and particularly our mayor.

From time to time there are community issues that challenge us and not everyone will agree with, but there is absolutely no excuse for online abuse.

People can feel extremely powerful when all that is in front of them is a keyboard and screen.

What they have no knowledge of is the impact of their actions.

It is the councillors themselves who manage their own email inboxes and social media accounts. They read every word.

It is often said local government is the closest level of government to the people, so I admire anyone who puts up their hand to be a councillor.

Councillors do their best to make good decisions on behalf of the entire community, not just a few residents or single community group.

Our councillors come from all walks of life and are generally united by a desire to make our community a better place.

But in taking these roles on, they can become a target for unfair and uncalled for trolling online.

There is a misconception held by some people that because councillors are elected by the community that they are ‘fair game’ and it is acceptable for them to be the subject of such attacks.

This is absolutely not the case. No one in our community should have to put up with this.

It’s timely to be making this statement ahead of this week’s International Women’s Day celebrations, as it is often our female leaders on the receiving end of hurtful commentary.

As we prepare to vote in this October’s local government elections, it is also important to demonstrate that the City of Greater Bendigo prioritises the wellbeing of councillors and will support those who are willing to take on this essential leadership role.

Sometimes, difficult and unpopular decisions have to be made.

Our councillors take this part of their job seriously and consider a range of information to support their decision making.

Staff are then charged with the responsibility of implementing these decisions.

Our customer service teams take more than 100,000 phone calls each year, and we support a range of clubs, groups and organisations.

I am also often astounded by how some members of our community treat our staff.

The City of Greater Bendigo is a transparent and accountable organisation.

Councillors and staff value the ‘local’ aspect of local government and the opportunity to serve our community.

However, I am asking people to keep personal attacks out of their correspondence with councillors and staff.

Please think again before you press send or pick up the phone.